Empower Bolivian Women to be Local Health Leaders

by Etta Projects
Sep 30, 2013

Defying The Odds

Etta Projects began its Health Promoter Project three years ago.  The journey of one young girl, Evelyn Orellay, echoes the impact this project has had on the lives of the participants, their families and the community at large.

Evelyn is a community health promoter in the rural village of Rio Viejo.  Of the 50 women who currently participate in Etta Projects’ community health program, at 16 years old Evelyn is the youngest. 

Evelyn is a single mother.  She had her son, Jose, when she was 12 years old.  Evelyn was rejected by both the baby’s father and her own family when Jose was born.  She was forced to quit school to take care of her son.  Evelyn says she joined Etta Projects’ health program looking for companionship and support.  What she never expected was the impact it would have on her life.

Shortly after joining the program, Evelyn realized that she excelled in the training and had a unique passion to help others.  She aspired to become a nurse or a doctor.  Her parents recognized Evelyn’s new ambitions and agreed to allow her to return to school and help her to raise Jose.

Evelyn takes her position as a Community Health Promoter very seriously.  She spends her weekends making house calls to check up on the sick, injured and malnourished.  She is now the first person who community members turn to when they need medical support.  In fact, on two occasions, she helped local women give birth when the ambulance was not able to arrive on time.

Evelyn’s recognition as a health leader in her community earned her the position of Local Health Authority, a role almost never held by a woman and never as young as Evelyn.  Her ability to shine as the Local Health Authority led to election as President of the District Health Committee.  Most recently, she was nominated to serve on the directory committee of the Municipal Health Committee.  This is a group of six leading health authorities that represent the health needs of the entire municipality and hold voting power on how local government health resources are utilized.  In addition to her new positions in the healthcare system, Evelyn also manages to maintain the rank of Valedictorian of her high school. 

Evelyn says it is Etta Projects that provided her with this opportunity to change her life.  “I think back to what my life was like before the program, and I never would have imagined I’d be where I am today.  Now I believe that anything is possible.  I know I will keep achieving new goals and now I am certain that I have a good future ahead of me.”

Etta Projects’ health promoter program continues to be a catalyst for change in the lives of the participants like Evelyn as well as the community at large.  Over the month of September, in Evelyn’s district the trainings focused on the commonly taboo topic of reproductive health.  Participants learned about adolescent pregnancies, contraceptives and family planning.  Etta Projects' goal is to teach promoters to help community members recognize their right to be informed of and to have access to safe and affordable methods of fertility regulation, and the right of access to appropriate health care services for pregnant women.    

In addition to trainings on reproductive health, over the past month the Municipal Health Committee where Evelyn holds a seat has been preparing its first official Health Development Plan.  This is the groundbreaking plan developed by the Municipal Health Committee to be presented to the Municipality of Minero in the upcoming week.  For Etta Projects' health program, the plan represents a new space for the voice of women in health planning and ensures equitable representation of community health needs.

We thank you for your commitment to Etta Projects' health program and for your support to Evelyn and the other participants.  Evelyn's story is inspiring. Please share this story with your girlfriends because we all need to celebrate when one of us defys the odds!!!


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Organization Information

Etta Projects

Location: Port Orchard, Washington - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.ettaprojects.org
Project Leader:
Pennye Nixon
Port Orchard, WA Bolivia

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Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.

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